Saturday morning kids shows

The Astoria became a bingo hall and is currently unoccupied
Photo by Tony Mould

Free entry as a monitor

The Astoria was a great place for kids to go on Saturday mornings in the 1950s. The entrance fee was six old pence and it was about a three hour show. Rather than employ an entire staff of adults, the manager got some of the older children to act as monitors and then gave them free entry. I was a monitor there and recall having to give out picture cards to the smaller children attending. The aim was to get them to collect entire sets by coming back week after week. When they had a full set, they got a badge. As monitors we always ensured we got full sets of the cards and the badges. I’ve still got some tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

Mums went shopping

While the kids were at the Saturday morning cinema, busy mums had to dash from shop to shop in London Road to get the weekend groceries. No supermarkets in those days! The mothers often went to Bellman’s, where the sales assistants put all money tendered into a catapult system and shot it across the ceiling on wire to the cashier’s desk. After that they were off to Sydney Street, where butchers wearing bloodstained aprons and boaters often stood in the road outside their shops discounting their meat. Each joint had a little wire skewer in it, and at the end of the day you could often get two joints for the price of one.

Comments about this page

  • I well remember the Saturday morning pictures at the Astoria but not as early as the 50s as I was too young. I went a few times in the 60s and it was the same scenario where the parents would go off to the shops whilst we were in the cinema. I remember seeing the fabulous Norman Wisdom films there but will always remember it as my introduction to Laurel & Hardy, which I still love and laugh at today! They used to show The Keystone Cops, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton but my mood would dip if they showed any Tarzan film which I really couldn’t stand. It was always packed and I always remember that they wouldn’t let you out until the national anthem had finished. What a shame that the Astoria is no more, I used to love it in the 60s and 70s when they had films on for ‘a season’. Does anyone else remember that? ‘Dr Zhivago’; ‘The Sting’; ‘Towering Inferno’; ‘Earthquake’, ‘Paint Your Wagon’ and many more films were on for months at a time as they were so popular.

    By Paul Clarkson (17/04/2013)
  • I remember going to the Saturday morning pictures at the Astoria in the 50s. Two of the main films were Flash Gordon and Tarzan. When we came out there was a policeman waiting to see us across the road, we were not allowed on to the gardens, then, not like now, the policeman would give you a real telling off if he caught you! It used to cost six old pence then – now it costs a lot more.

    By Kathleen Catt (nee Cornford) (19/04/2013)
  • Yes I remember the Astoria. I was  what was called a monitor which allowed you to go in free. My friend Brian Doo and I were chosen to go on the stage before the films started and we won a balloon contest and the prize was of Tarzan and Cheeta and Jane we thought we had won the football pools. I now live in Spain but visit England regularly. Wonderful time of my life – it was in the fifties.

    By Colin Taylor (10/07/2013)
  • I grew up in Brighton in the sixties. We never had a TV (not till I was 13 and had moved away). The cinema was our only entertainment, and I was a frequent cinema-goer, with one or other of my parents (occasionally both) or sometimes with a friend to Saturday morning pictures at the Astoria. My most memorable films were A Man for All Seasons at the Regent when I was about 10, Paint Your Wagon at the Astoria, Fiddler on the Roof at the Continentale in Kemp Town, the film of Till Death Us Do Part, The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery, which I made my Mum sit through twice! In those days most cinemas ran continuous performances and you could just stay in your seat. I also saw numerous films at the Duke of York’s, Preston Circus, which was our ‘local’. Brighton was also popular with film makers, and I remember watching the filming of Oh! What a Lovely War on the West Pier. We got close enough to the cast to get autographs. Also saw some of the filming of On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever) with Barbara Streisand, in one of the Crescents, and outside the Royal Pavilion. Happy days!

    By Keren Harrold (05/02/2017)

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